Leaders Forum: Stephen Gartrell, National Field Manager, Pacific Optics

As part of the 2022 Leaders Forum Stephen Gartrell, National Field Manager at Pacific Optics, discusses the years highlights, including how the company had to pivot at speed to deliver RAT kits.

C&I: What were the highlights for Pacific Optics over the past 12 months?

Gartrell: Despite another challenging year due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, there have been many highlights for Pacific Optics over the past 12 months, as always, our people and customers have been at the helm. Our field team remained focused on maintaining and delivering a high level of service to our customers, despite the challenges of restrictions and lockdowns.

Our account management team successfully re-signed long term agreements with key partners, our operations team opened our new state of the art sustainable focused operational warehouse in Yatala (5 Star Green Star certified rating) and our product team launched to market our WalknTalk ‘Fast Charge’ and ‘Magnetic Charge’ phone accessory range of products seeing alignment with the newest power-hungry devices in the market.

We have also brought to life products from recycled materials which is a step in the right direction for sustainability. Amongst all of this, we pivoted into additional products in our health range at speed delivering Rapid Antigen Test kits to support the needs of our customers and market demand.

C&I: What are your main priorities for the remainder of 2022?

Gartrell: Maintaining consistency across our business and core categories is key to ensuring our customers, and the consumers, have a positive experience with Pacific Optics and our brands. Continuing to engage our customers via in person meetings and networking activities to reinforce our commitment to delivering exceptional customer service will be a key priority in 2022.

We are also focused on improving our overall business practices and communicating our strategies, plans and market insights to our customers with aim of mutual growth. We have listened to our customers and we’re intent on delivering these priorities as well as improving and growing our core brands WalknTalk, Fuse Audio and Aerial Sunglasses via adjustments based on research and insights sprinkled with strategic NPD.

C&I: What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Gartrell: I love listening, learning, and regularly interacting directly with our customers to support them to build their businesses in the general merchandise categories that we offer. Within our business, I pride myself on supporting our fantastically talented and experienced state and territory managers to build on our company’s success and deliver exceptional customer service.

Our DNA is petrol and convenience and being part of this channel and watching both our company and customers grow together is very rewarding.   

C&I: What is your company doing to meet changing customer demands?

Gartrell: We understand the Australian shopper is changing and we are evolving in line with advancements in digital adoption and a focus on social and environmental responsibility. We aim to have something to cover the broad spectrum of the channel’s customers under a mantra, everyone is our customer, but are aware of the key driving male, Gen Y and Gen X that is most prevalent in our market. These consumers expect an experience where they can find what they need easily. Pacific Optics is working with our partners to drive in-store execution through improved planograms, focused on customer centricity in both offering and placement to reduce friction in the experience.

We are focused on constant improvements in our social and environmental responsibilities. We have reviewed and improved our modern slavery policies and built-in continuous improvement programs around this. We are also exploring a range of sustainable packaging options, reducing production and secondary material waste, and reducing our footprint via product and process development around our goods.

C&I: What does your crystal ball say about the year ahead in convenience?

Gartrell: We are excited to see where the channel heads this year and are ready to go on the journey with our customers. There is some uncertainty in the world and economy that we all hear about, but we are intent on curating our scope of control to deliver great solutions for our customers.

We are looking forward to delivering joint bricks and mortar cross digital experiences for our customers, seeing our environment sustainability programs grow and sharpen our in-store execution and mix to grow results for our trade partners.

C&I: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Gartrell: Pacific Optics has seen some changes in the last 18 month with new talent joining the business to add to our existing experienced team and capabilities. Our core is still to operate with the passion, dedication and customer centricity that has sewed itself into the fabric of the business.

Personally, I have been promoted into a role of National Field Manager which allows me to combine my sales skills and operational know how to drive exceptional customer service in field. I am moving into the role to support Andrew Poore our GM Sales and I am lucky that Harry Phillipou our current GM of Field is moving into a role of Account Management and Business Development that balances his lifestyle aspirations and family life.

We are excited for the future and are poised with a team to deliver on the future expectations of our customers and consumers.

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